Tag Archive for: Chicago

INDEPENDENT PURSUIT ATLANTIC CROSSING 2018 (Part 6)

SEPTEMBER 5:

Sunrise at sea

Last night, around 23:30, I was totally engrossed in my reading, when, all on a sudden, wailing sirens startled me.  It was like we were being chased by police.

Barefoot I hurried up the bridge where all the ship’s officers were checking instruments in the dark and I was told that there was a fire alarm coming from the bosun’s store which, from what I could hear, is located somewhere close to the bow.

No panic, probably a malfunctioning sensor.  Rather than to stay in the way of the pro’s, I retreated to my cabin.  It looks like all was under control.

I had a really miserable night and did not sleep well.  Note to self: take a sleeping aid tonight.  Around 05:00 I finally fell asleep and woke up around 10:00.  Let’s skip breakfast.  After a shower I went to the bridge to send my Spot position.  It looks like I have a whole audience on shore that receives and disseminates my positions.

The weather today is grey and overcast.  The sea is calm with low waves and visibility is about 10 miles. A bit dreary.  Temperature has dropped and I am no longer wearing shorts but jeans and a fleece over my polo.

When I spotted the fishing boats yesterday on the chart plotter, I could also see one ship named Santa Bettina on our quarter port.  This morning she had passed us and was on our starboard at a one o’clock position and about seven miles ahead of us.  The AIS showed that she is a cargo ship headed for GBLGP.  When I have good internet access, I will have to find out what steamship line she belongs to and what the port in the U.K. is with code LGP.  Professional curiosity, I guess?

I always thought that crossing the ocean on a ship would do away with the jet lag.

Instead of jumping six or seven time zones on a nine four flight from Chicago to, let’s say, Brussels, you take eleven days thus smoothening the shock.

When talking with the crew about this, they disagreed, and I must say that, after five days, I am also starting to have my doubts about it.

Remember how miserable you can feel for a few days when, twice a year, we change hours in spring and fall?  Well, imagine having that experience on an almost daily basis, when sailing from one time zone to next one with the clock jumping an hour forward going east.

It screws up your sleep pattern while your stomach tells you it is not really hungry at 12:00 today because yesterday it was 11:00 at this juncture.

Each cabin has a clock against the wall.  The clock is centrally controlled and, every so often, when we are gaining hours, the hands start to race forward to catch up with the new local time and you then must reset your watch accordingly.

Lunch today was OK, nothing spectacular.  Some beef with a non-descript gravy and potato croquettes with some kind of onion salad.  I cannot wait to cook my own meals again.

I finished my Grisham novel and ready for a nap to compensate for the lousy night.

16:28 UTC (or Zulu time as we called it when I was flying) translates to 17:28 local.

The sky has cleared, and the sun is out again.  A bit more wave action than earlier today. 

Was it the fact that I had mentioned to the Captain that I love Paella but, for dinner, we were served a risotto with calamares.  I only picked a little at it because it was very fishy tasting.  I limited myself to some salad and a kind of “Pan Con Tomate”-like tapa.  There is fruit in the cabin.

Going to the bridge to send my Spot position (19:30 local) then read some more.

We are halfway…

INDEPENDENT PURSUIT ATLANTIC CROSSING 2018 (Part 4)

SEPTEMBER 3:

My big mistake last night when I was on the bridge was to have a cup of coffee before heading back to my cabin and I paid for it with a fitful and restless sleep.

Container ship artwork

During the night I had the impression that they were revving up the engines and, at one point, the noise was very loud.  Yesterday the ship switched from expensive low sulfur fuel to regular fuel. Because of environmental regulations only low sulfur fuel can be used in coastal and near coastal waters and, in order to save costs, the engines are not pushed at maximum performance.  Once the switch to regular fuel is done, the engines are revved up to gain more speed.

We are now cruising at 17.5 knots COG and have about 3 knots of current against us.

Overnight, we entered another time zone, two hours ahead of Chicago time which meant getting up earlier for breakfast.  Poor Emilio, the cook, must also have been suffering from a bad night as I only got a hot dog for breakfast.  Thank Goodness there is always Nutella to fall back on.

I already sent my Spot position out for the morning and checked my emails.  The “Admiral” confirmed that she does indeed receive my Spot positions.

One of my fellow members of the Rotary Club of Wheaton, IL, also receives the position and shares it with all the other members on a daily basis.

Current position as I write this is 3924.938N and 63◦14.799W.

Back from breakfast and the bridge but really tired from that lousy night, I decided to go back to sleep and woke up right before lunch, which consisted of some watery vermicelli soup followed by a rice and meat dish.  The meat reminded me of a bastardized version of Mila’s delicious Peruvian lomo saltado.

Back to my books and computer for the afternoon and time to think about doing the laundry.

Laundry done, I go up and down the stairs a few times to keep in shape followed by some more reading, trying in vain to access my emails and, after giving up on that, I go down for dinner.

What’s happening, Emilio?  Some dried out pieces of pork on a skewer with some potatoes swimming in olive oil?  It may end up being a forced diet after all.  I will have some salad and an orange, thank you!

Up the stairs to the bridge for the last Spot transmission of the day and a brief evening chat with the First Mate who wants to know everything about hiking the Inca Trail, which is on his bucket list. Having hiked the trail twice and being a regular visitor to Peru, where my lovely wife, “The Admiral” is from, I was able to share lots of useful information.  Back to my cabin trying to check my emails again and finishing the last few chapters of my first book of the trip.

I have been swearing and muttering all afternoon long because of the unreliable internet connection that prevents me from getting and sending emails.

Finally, around 23:00 local, I was able to get my messages.

Time to hit the sack.  Tomorrow is day four…….

INDEPENDENT PURSUIT ATLANTIC CROSSING 2018 (Part 1)

Independent Pursuit Atlantic Crossing 2018

Preamble:

Back in June of 2018, while sailing in Croatia during our annual flotilla, I noticed that my peripheral vision in my right eye was getting limited.  The following week, back in Chicago, I had to undergo emergency surgery for a detached retina.

Part of the surgical procedure consisted in putting a gas bubble inside the eye ball to keep that retina back in place after it had been reattached with a laser.

As a result, I was not allowed to fly until that bubble has resorbed itself because, at higher altitudes, it would expand and could cause permanent damage or even blindness.

This problem forced us to cancel our annual flotilla in Mallorca, but we still thought it would be possible to fly to Italy for our first Tuscany sailing flotilla starting on September 15.  That was not the surgeon’s opinion and he told me that, under no circumstances, should I be flying.  Twenty-one friends and customers had booked and paid already and there was no way we would let them down.  The solution? Go the old fashion way and cross the Atlantic on a ship.

Here is the story of that crossing.  I hope you will enjoy reading about my experience as much as I did when doing that crossing.

AUGUST 31:

After a very tedious and exhausting drive from Chicago to Wilmington, NC, and after dropping off the rental car at the local airport, I finally reached, around 13:00 hours, my destination for the day, the Port of Wilmington, where I found the Independent Pursuit of ICL Container Lines in full loading operations mode.

Two large container gantry cranes where picking up containers from trucks and loading them aboard the vessel as local longshoremen secured them in the holds and on top of the hatches.

After being invited up the gangway while two Filipino crewmembers hauled my heavy suitcase on board, I was introduced to the First Mate who took my boarding papers and passport after which I was shown my lodging accommodations, called the Owners Cabin.  It is quite large with a desk, table and two settees, a double berth (very comfortable) and a bathroom or head, complete with shower and vanity.  Strangely enough, the smell of the head on such a large vessel is extremely similar to the one on sailboats.  Must be the sea but thank God for lemon scented air spray.

The Chief Officer, Luka Bjelic, showed me the bare essentials I needed to know to pass the afternoon on the ship while she was being worked. He introduced me to Emilio the cook and told me where I would have my meals with the Captain and officers in the mess.

Unpacking and getting organized the cabin done, I watched the loading operations through my cabin porthole and from the bridge until it was dinner time, around 17:00.

No sign of Captain, Aleksandr Valentin, yet.  He was sound asleep in his cabin after a long night of bringing the ship to berth.  My dinner “mate” was the Chief Electrician, Hrvoje Balent. who mentioned that all the senior officers on board except for the Third Mate are Croats.  Needless to say, we found a lot in common to talk about sailing in Croatia, the food, wines, etc.  By the end of the meal, the Captain showed up and introduced himself.  A very nice guy with a firm handshake, he welcomed me warmly on board of his ship.

After dinner, I continued to watch the never-ending line of trucks bringing containers alongside the ship and the crane picking up the boxes and putting them deftly in place in their slots.  It is a fascinating and mesmerizing show.

As this trip was going to be with very little access to wi-fi, I overdosed a bit on social media sending pictures on Facebook, emailing and texting my wife, Mila, friends and kids before starting my eleven-day social media detox program.

At the time of booking this trip, the departure time was scheduled for 19:00 but, with the slower than expected pace of loading the ship, it was pushed back to 23:00 and finally we left at 00:45 on September 1.

When I saw that the last containers had been loaded and the crane was being moved, I headed for the bridge where preparations for our departure were underway.  The captain was on the bridge with two pilots.  One was the dock pilot who would assist in pulling the vessel away from her berth and guide the tugboat and the second pilot was the river pilot who would guide us through the maze of buoys and markers on the Cape Fear River to the open sea where he would be picked up by the pilot boat.

The Cape Fear River is long, narrow for large cargo ships, and it snakes its way with several twists and turns towards the Atlantic.  Halfway down the river, I called it the night and crashed in my berth.  At first, I thought I would not be able to sleep because of the constant drone of the engine but it proved to be a powerful lullaby and I was out until well past 08:30.

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